Among skiers, SilverStar is known for its endless terrain of impeccable skiing and tall snow laden trees resembling a fantastic North Pole. Even though I'd never been there until racing brought me there last month, I could picture the snow, the trees, the skiing, as they have inundated my Instagram feed since forever, from friends and teammates traveling there for races or training camps. The snow charm never gets old.
While no one ever posted photos of their rental houses, they were nearly as iconic in the imagination, as each would also report back about the colorful houses they stayed in, remarking on which color they got this year. The (vacation) residential landscape is punctuated by a lot of color, vibrant against the clean hues of snow and sky and trees. In some ways they did resemble gingerbread houses, matching the North Pole vibe, but they looked like something else, too. Although constructed in the late 1900s, they had a little more going on than a typical 20th century ski condo, they looked like they had some element of Victorian influence.
A bit of research confirmed my hunch. The Victorian Period of architecture (named for Queen Victoria’s reign) considered to have lasted from 1840-1885 in Europe, with influence in North America during that period too, thanks to Andrew Jackson Downing's pattern books. The style started in England as part of the picturesque movement, a reaction to classical ideals from Italy and Rome. Specifically, the Italianate style (of the Victorian period) is characterized by low pitched or flat roofs, balanced rectangular shape, wide eaves with brackets and cornices, porches with balustraded balconies, tall windows with decorative moldings, bay windows, arches above the windows and doors, and the fancier ones with towers and cupolas. The exterior embellishment was frequent and ornate; the “expense and craftsmanship lavished on exteriors offers testament to the prosperity and optimism of the era”. While the rental houses populating the "knoll" didn't match all of these exactly, the deep, bracketed eaves, bay windows and detailing where enough to claim influence.
While walking around the housing development the day we got there, my teammate Kait and I remarked on the distinctive aesthetic, likening it to houses in Barre, Vermont. Some quick research on Barre found it's economic boom in the 1880s parrelleled the height of the Italianate period. As granite quarrying brought in new money and immigrants, population skyrocketed, and a housing boom ensued.
SilverStar matched many of these characteristics, with one major exception, the color. Victorian homes originally were painted in red, green, gold, or purple. In addition to those colors, these in SilverStar appeared in nearly every color of the rainbow. A bit more research found that repainting Victorian homes is actually quite popular, specifically Alamo Square in San Fransisco is a famous spot known for its old Victorian homes that escaped urban renewal, picturesque against the sky scrapers.
So, back to SilverStar, why the Victorian look in their vacation rental housing development? It is as if it’s a third impression of the original Italian influence. First came the Italian in the 1600s, then the Italianate in the 1880's, now the "Italianate-ate?" of the late 20th century. The houses in SilverStar definitely give off the picturesque feel, matching the Italianate, and I’d guess the developers were aspiring for the affluent feel, too of that period. It definitely was intentional, the Victorian theme consistent throughout the entire housing development and ski village.
Built entirely as vacation homes, it makes sense they’d try and subconsciously market them as luxurious, economically booming, the feeling of prestige; an effort to give off quaint and old-timey feel despite cheap construction and gaudy colors. It gives an otherworldly transport. Even without knowing anything about architects or styles, the uniformity amongst them, even among different designs, the deep eaves, the bracketed flat rooves, the tall narrow façade, the bay windows, give a feel that is distinctly there. The colors add to the picturesque feel, fitting in the North Pole aesthetic. Along with the trees, the landscape, giving you the feel on your Christmas vacation, or ski trip, that you have been transported. If not back to the 1880s, they have successfully become a place that is distinctly there, a reminder that you are away from where you came. If I was a vacation home designer, that’s exactly what I’d be going for, too.